A love letter to the custom bike industry

Publish Date: 
Feb 24, 2014
By Rick Fairless

Dear Custom Motorcycle Industry, I’m writing you today out of much love and respect. 

I have owned my own custom motorcycle shop, Strokers Dallas, for many years, and I have seen the best of times and the worst of times.

I get up at 3 a.m., seven days a week, and I hit the floor running because I can’t wait to get to work. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and even Sunday, the days run together because my routine never changes. You would think that after all these years I would take some days off, but I don’t, I can’t, I won’t!

I think there is a difference between being eclectic and being an idiot.

In 1996 the great Joe Teresi advised me against working seven days a week. He said that I would need at least one or two days a week away from work to recharge my battery and keep from burning myself out. Joe’s the man, I consider him to be the Hugh Hefner of the custom V-twin motorcycle industry and I love and respect Joe and his wife, Ellen, very much. But I could not take his advice on this one, and so far I’m still going strong.

Of course I may work myself to death before my next column is due, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take because I love my job that much. Actually, I don’t consider it to be a job…it’s my life!

One of the things we all fight about are the stereotypes that are associated with this industry. We all have wild parties, get drunk and do burnouts every day and then knock the headboard all night (I wish!). What’s worse is that some among us try to live up to those stereotypes. There’s an old Texas saying: “Ya don’t gotta show your ass to get attention!”

I think there is a difference between being eclectic and being an idiot. We need to conduct ourselves in a manner that makes young people want to emulate us and maybe choose this industry as their chosen path someday. Yes, I’ll admit that most of us in the custom motorcycle industry are maybe a little bit off-center, but I think that’s part of what makes us choose this unconventional career path.

Most of us are in this industry for the love of the custom motorcycle — ya know, that crazy machine that makes our heart race. But there are some that are only in it for the almighty dollar. The only good thing that I saw that came from the economy of the last five years (Isn’t that about how long it’s been since our Texas boy, Dubya, left D.C.?) is that it has wiped out many of these posers and buck chasers. And let me say “AMF” to those cats!

I believe that this industry is about passion and that’s why we do what we do. Most of us could probably go to work in a different industry and make more money, but we won’t! My wife told me a few years ago that I didn’t pay myself enough money to “feed a family of squirrels.” I told her, “That’s OK, I make enough money to feed you, me and a goofy dog, and we’re as happy as a tick on a pig!”

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